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Ukrainian group protests Oscar nominations for ‘Top Gun: Maverick,’ citing film’s alleged ties to a Russian oligarch

A global Ukrainian group protests the nomination of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences “Top Gun: Maverick” for multiple Oscars, including Best Picture, citing his concern over the film’s alleged ties to a Russian oligarch sanctioned by Ukraine.

While acknowledging the academy’s “longstanding support to Ukraine”, Ukrainian World Congressa non-governmental organization, sent a letter on Monday to the Academy’s president Janet Yang and the AMPAS board of directors asking them to explicitly reject films funded by “Russian oligarchs or other factors contributing to the genocidal war.” of Russia against Ukraine” and to test “the suitability” of “Top Gun: Independent thinking person,” starring Tom Cruise, for entering this year’s Academy Awards.

The Toronto-based group, founded in 1967 and representing Ukrainian communities around the world, also asked the academy to condemn “Russia’s war against Ukraine and all attempts to influence Hollywood and American society” at the Oscars ceremony which will be held on Sunday.

Representatives from the academy were not immediately available for comment.

The letter comes two months after The Times reported on a breach of contract lawsuit brought by Bradley Fischer, former president of New Republic Pictures. That lawsuit alleged that Monaco-based Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev was instrumental in financing “Top Gun: Maverick,” the sequels “Mission: Impossible,” and a string of other major Paramount films through his role as a “silent partner.” in New Republic.

In 2020, Los Angeles-based New Republic signed a more than $200 million deal with Paramount Pictures to fund up to a quarter of the budgets for 10 films in exchange for a share of any profits or losses from the films.

Rybolovlev and his representatives were not immediately available for comment.

“The World Congress of Ukraine (UWC) expresses serious concern about Russia’s influence on the Hollywood film industry. Particularly as it relates to the nomination of “Top Gun: Maverick” for six awards at the 95th Academy Awards, including Best Picture,” the letter signed by Paul Grod, the organization’s president, said.

“Rybolovlev’s Financing of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ was not made public and there is good reason to believe that his involvement may have led to censorship on behalf of the Kremlin,” the letter continues. “Unlike the original movie, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ does not refer directly or indirectly to Russia. This is hardly a coincidence.”

In an interview with The Times, Grod called on the academy to explore Russian influence in Hollywood.

“Think about how the Russians have tried to influence public policy and elections,” Grod said. “I think it’s pretty logical to see them trying the same thing in Hollywood. Therefore, we are upset by this revelation.”

William Browder, a financier and fierce critic of Russian corruption who once ran one of the largest hedge funds in that country, also questioned the Oscar nominations for “Top Gun: Maverick.”

“The US government is doing everything it can to limit Russian influence in the political process, the banking system and elsewhere,” Browder said in an interview. “Hollywood is one of those places that has more influence than anything else and allowing and promoting a Russian-funded film for an Academy Award seems to contradict everything else in the political sphere.”

Fischer’s lawsuit, filed last December in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Rybolovlev’s money has been critical to New Republic’s operations. According to the lawsuit, Rybolovlev, who was not a defendant in the lawsuit, withdrew his assets from the venture after Russia invaded Ukraine and Western governments began imposing sanctions on wealthy Russians.

Last October, Rybolovlev was on a list of sanctioned Russian businessmen and their families and allies issued by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

However, Rybolovlev has not been named among the more than a dozen Russian oligarchs and their families sanctioned by the United States.

The businessman, whose net worth Bloomberg has estimated at $10.1 billion, is located in Monaco. He built his fortune in Uralkali, Russia’s largest producer of potash fertilizers, during the privatization era of the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. In 2010 and 2011, he sold his interest in Uralkali and another fertilizer company for $7 billion.

The billionaire mining tycoon owns a huge portfolio of real estate and yachts and a stake in the Bank of Cyprus. He is the current majority shareholder of AS Monaco professional football club.

One of the the world’s best art collectorsRybolovlev holds some great works, including pieces by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Mark Rothko.

For years, Rybolovlev was involved in a protracted legal battle with Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier. Rybolovlev accused Bouvier, who spent more than 12 years buying some 38 works of art for $2 billion on behalf of the oligarch, of defrauding him.

2020, the charges against Bouvier were dismissed when a Monaco court upheld a lower court’s ruling that “the investigations had been conducted in a biased and unfair manner under circumstances that seriously and permanently jeopardized the balance of the parties,” according to the New York Times.